JERUSALEM (Aug. 20)
In the wake of Saddam Hussein’s one-day conquest of Kuwait, Palestinians and their supporters in Israel are increasingly advocating the use of force as the best means to achieve their political objectives.
During the 23 years since Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip, most mainstream Arab thinkers have fallen back on U.N. resolutions and international conventions to argue for the end of Israeli control over the territories.
But in the aftermath of Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion, force suddenly has come into vogue, not just in the bazaar but in more or less respectable Israeli Arab quarters.
Take for example Dr. Shukri Abed, a researcher at the prestigious Truman Institute of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
“Without force, it will be impossible to impose peace on Israel,” Abed stated flatly. “I believe that our world is Machiavellian, and without the element of force, one cannot form normal relations between countries.”
Abed belongs to the Arab Democratic Party, a left-wing faction headed by Abd-el Wahab Darousha, its sole Knesset member. Darousha, too, has expressed vocal support for Hussein’s incursion into Kuwait.
Support for the Iraqi leader, in fact, is widespread among Israel’s Arab population, not to mention the 1.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
‘OUR RIGHT TO BE CONCERNED’
Even as they demand their right to be issued gas masks along with the Jewish population, Israel’s Arab community sees no contradiction in its support for the Iraqi aggressor, despite Hussein’s threat to destroy “half of Israel’ with chemical weapons if it attacks Iraq.
“We are part of the Arab nation. It is our right to be concerned over every Arab, just as it is the right of every Jew to be concerned over every Jew in the world,” said Darousha.
Although Israeli Arabs admit Hussein used brutal measures to seize Kuwait, they support what they describe as the “unification” of Kuwait with Iraq.
“British imperialism detached Kuwait from Iraq. We support the return of the historic rights,” Darousha declared. In essence, he was using the same argument that advocates of a “Greater Israel” use when they urge Israel to annex the West Bank, as Jordan did in 1950.
Kuwait, a remote corner of the Ottoman Empire, became a British protectorate in 1899. So was Iraq, over which the British obtained a League of Nations mandate following World War I.
Iraq was made independent under a king in 1932. And when Kuwait proclaimed independence in 1961, British troops intervened to frighten off the Iraqis.
According to Darousha, Hussein’s gamble will succeed in the end, and his proposal for the withdrawal of all countries’ occupying forces will be adopted.
The Iraqi leader has offered to pull out of Kuwait if the United States removes its forces from Saudi Arabia, Israel withdraws from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, and Syria pulls its troops out of Lebanon.
Israeli Arabs have long depended on support from the left-wing Israeli peace movement. Now they seem to be abandoning it in favor of Hussein’s militancy.
GOAL IS THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL
Israeli analysts see three interrelated explanations for the shift.
For one, Darousha and his cohorts are trying to fill the vacuum created by the decline of the Israeli Communist Party, once the main vehicle of Israeli-Arab politics.
Their principal rival is the rising Islamic fundamentalist movement, and the only way to counter the fundamentalists is to show that they can be at least as tough on Israel, these analysts say.
Another reason is that the dialogue with the Israeli left has borne no fruit so far. The political process is stalemated, and Arab-Jewish relations have never been worse.
A case in point was Jewish mob violence against Arabs in Jerusalem two weeks ago, following the murders of two Jewish teen-agers, whose killers have not yet been found.
Finally, the Jewish public may have misread trends in the Arab community, according to Professor Yehoshua Porat, one of the Hebrew University’s top Middle East experts.
In an article in the respected daily Ha’aretz this week, Porat claimed the goal of the Palestinian struggle is not independence but the destruction of Israel and the restoration of Palestine as an Arab entity.
According to Porat, that explains why Palestinians are willing to be caught in a total war between Israel and Iraq, “as long as Israel is destroyed.”